Tig Notaro: Good One
By Matt Edsall 23 August 2011
You’re at a party when your buddy meets “Someone.” This “Someone” has a friend, and since your buddy already called dibs, you’re forced to play wingman with the friend. Yet surprisingly, this wingman dilemma is atypical of most wingman dilemmas. The friend is seemingly a good catch: skinny, nice smile, and though she wears a boyish haircut, you find it kind of cute because it resembles Tegan Quin (you secretly love the song “Back In Your Head”). However, her personality is scarred by a rather boring disposition, and within five minutes of several interspersed lulls, you begin looking for an out.
Eventually, the host comes over and mingles with “Someone” and your buddy, and you’re able to throw yourself into the circle and scapegoat the quiet companion. Yet that’s when discomfort rockets to its full potential. The friend transforms into a bipedal monster of sarcasm, butting in with dry, snarky comments about the topics at hand, and it causes you to wonder: Where the hell did this just come from?
This situation most likely ranks high on a pet peeve list for the average man. (I say “average” so as to mean Joe Shmo who works a W-2 job and spends 95% of his time performing safe activities. Drug kingpins and Amazon River excavators, for example, probably wouldn’t find this encounter to be such a drag.) Is there not very little worse than being forced into speechless conversation with a monotone and seemingly lifeless person whose also a sarcastic asshole?
Within 30 seconds of Tig Notaro’s act, you wonder if the comedian will be Exhibit A for the above problem. She’s quiet, shy and lacks any excitement toward talking to her crowd. Her voice illustrates a woman completely unsure of herself and feels destined for failure. Any idea she has seems to muddle around in her brain before she speaks, weary of whether it’s even going to resonate with people.
But by a minute in, she does something to make you realize she’s not an asshole: She makes you laugh your fucking ass off.
“I hate when people email me and end with ‘Can you believe it?’” Notaro says. “For instance, ‘Katie’s starting kindergarten this year. Can you believe it?’ It’s like, well, your daughter’s following the natural progression of life, so yes, I can believe that. Now if they were to tell me, ‘Katie hasn’t grown an inch since the day she was born. She hasn’t spoken a single word. She’s graduating college this year,’ then that’s when I’d react like, oh my God! No!”
If Jerry Seinfeld got a sex change and delivered his jokes like Mitch Hedberg, you’d have Tig Notaro. Her observational style covers a wide variety of topics, such as the “No Moleste” sign on hotel room doors, Cher’s transsexual daughter-turned-son, and the irony of calling artificial insemination, “artificial.” (“Artificial would be if you put one of those blow-up sponge things in me and nine months later, I’m like, ‘Holy crap. Velociraptor?!’) Her high point, however, is her story about running into ‘80s pop-singer Taylor Dayne numerous times over the course of two years and continually telling her she loves her voice, only to get a different answer every single time. Whether it’s this 12-minute bit or a quick 45-second joke, Notaro hits every single beat with the perfect delivery, taking long pauses to build a bigger laugh or sometimes calling out audience members on their own reactions to her routine.
“I love that you’re actually slapping your knee right now,” she remarks to a guy in the front row. “You look like you just watched cartoons for four hours.”
Minus her blatant desire to perform comedy, Notaro is the complete opposite of a stand-up’s personality. On-stage, her presence never commands any sort of attention; in fact, her entire shtick emanates the exact opposite vibe that you’re wasting your time even listening to anything she has to say. It’s that awkwardness and lack of self-esteem she exudes, though, that makes Notaro one of my favorite comedians on the market. (Perhaps it’s Freudian; let’s find out if Robin Pecknold digs her too.) Unlike most female comedians that treat the art form as an excuse to rant, rave, and throw feminist tantrums, Notaro merely shrugs when a guy tells her she has “little titties.”
“This guy had so many other things he could have said, like, ‘Hello,’ or, (long pause) “I was gonna say something, but I decided not to.’”
It’s no suprise Indie label Secretly Canadian (Yeasayer, Antony and the Johnsons) chose Good One to be its first comedy release. The 45-minute set showcases a comedian at her fullest strength whose talent can’t hide her dedication to the craft. No matter how diverse the jokes are, Notaro keeps the flow consistent and doubles you over in laughter. Don’t be offended if she seems unaffected, though. It’s all just a gimmick.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Matt has been reviewing for PopMatters for only a short while, but he’s been obsessed with music ever since he started forming memories. He watches way more TV and Netflix than he ever reads, but when he does read, he reads Bill Simmons’ Grantland. He contributes to MVREMIX, as well as writes for his own blog, The-lysine-contingency.tumblr.com. He resides in Los Angeles.